MORINELLO: Economic development is a team sport | Opinion

One of the main items on the agenda of any elected official is the promotion of economic development. After all, every community wants the investment, tax revenue and jobs that come from new projects. The question is: what can elected officials really do to have an impact on economic development?

This question came to mind with recent coverage of a potential upcoming mega-project in the city of Niagara. It’s certainly cause for excitement and celebration, although the #1 rule in economic development is never toss the ball before a project crosses the goal line. But what makes a project like this possible in our community and how can we replicate it?

The answer to all of these questions, I believe, comes down to alignment. By this I mean that a community needs to have all of its ducks lined up long before a project is even on the drawing board. It starts with a clear understanding of where economic development projects are welcome. In the case of the City of Niagara project, the site is already considered ready to start and has the necessary zoning designations.

At the same time, it is very important that decision-makers at all levels of government act in coordination. We are very fortunate in Niagara County that our level of communication and collaboration is very strong. As a member of the State Assembly, I am in regular contact with county and city leaders to see how our state and federal delegations can help. In this way, questions are asked, issues are raised, and ultimately consensus is reached so that our community can present its best footing in unity.

Of course, you need top-notch economic development professionals like those at the Niagara County Economic Development Center to bring it all together. These people live and breathe economic development every day, doing their best to enhance the assets of our community. Their interactions with developers are often the key relationships to move projects forward.

You may have noticed that I have not yet mentioned the importance of any financial incentive to make these projects happen. Sure, dollars and cents matter, but these are negotiations that take place once a developer is interested in a potential site. There is no negotiation if your community never makes it to the table. What a developer ultimately wants is to know that once a project is announced, the approval process will be thorough, fair, and fast. Time really is money and no one wants to get bogged down, especially with unforeseen problems or opposition. These are only avoided when there has been open communication and coordination throughout.

Football is often said to be the ultimate team sport because there are so many different pieces that need to come together to be successful. By that definition, I would say that economic development can actually be the ultimate team sport, and I’m very proud to be part of the Niagara County team, whether it’s attracting a megaproject in the city of Niagara, to support the expansion of an existing business or encourage an entrepreneur to try their luck.

Angelo Morinello represents the 145th district of the State Assembly.